The discography of the mighty Bridge Nine Records reads like a multitude of Top 10 best of lists ad infinitum.
Carry On's A Life Less Plagued was released in October of 2001 and, barely a year later in November, the equally lasting classic Ill Blood by No Warning dropped. Being a noted standout title jammed between bookends of such weighty and immediate godhead status was the toughest of tasks. American Nightmare had seemingly changed the game overnight. Bridge Nine had officially established it's stranglehold on a particular corner of hardcore. The message board alone was desert water for a younger me, albeit buried beneath the dimmest of witticisms and in-fighting.
Brand loyalty being what it is, I needn't hear a note prior to a B9 release to willingly snatch it up on release day, even moreso in the early 'oughts. Among the litany of fantastic and firebrand releases put out between such standout LPs were slabs of wax from Striking Distance, Panic, Some Kind of Hate, and others. Among other options for this piece were other criminally under appreciated B9 bands including Dead Swans, Blue Monday, The Distance, Triple Threat, and the last Strike Anywhere LP.
In my selective and extremely personal recollection, towering above them all was a record that not only defies easy categorization but defines the underrated tag. I give you my all-time favorite Bridge Nine release (don't @ me): From This Day On from Breathe In.
Purportedly in agreement to release their debut LP via Revelation Records, Breathe In were forced to find a new home for it due to changing of the guard at the label. Listening to it now, an impossible 17 years henceforth, From This Day On feels even more compelling, as part of the era’s upriver current as they were a band swimming against it. Perhaps because they hailed from the opposite coast, the "Berkeley, not Boston" loose punk vibes abound on this one. As comfortably as it fits with the straightforward, frenzied Boston sound of the time, there's an inherent snottiness to the vocals that only serves to reinforce the resignation and sneering pessimism of tracks like the opening one-two of “Amygdala” and “Doppler Effect.”
Beneath the hardcore punk fury laid as their template, Breathe In willingly embraced a melodic edge that recalls Lifetime and Kid Dynamite, albeit far more pissed and unhinged. The middle suite of tracks seem to best employ this approach, even going so far as to toss in a Fat Wreck-informed tinge to certain vocal runs. In their penchant to pair lightspeed melodic hardcore with a gravely vocal approach that seems to unravel with earnesty and rage over the course of but a single track, they excel where myriad other bands falter.
“Yesterday’s Dreams” is the standard bearer for this side of Breathe In’s many talents, as it stops on a dime apparently dropped by NOFX. Fittingly, the curled lip aesthetic of California punks Black Flag and The Circle Jerks show up all over the place. Breathe In even went so far as to record a lovingly rendered note for note cover of “Nervous Breakdown.” Before fading away, they managed a split with, curiously, Time In Malta. Their side continues on the ridiculously high standard of their sole full-length.
My favorite albums all seem to share a through line in that there’s generally a centerpiece. In the case of From This Day On, it’s one that plumbs emotional depths in a bravely unguarded way. Starting with the standalone moment of clean singing (almost!), “11-10-00 (Long Drive Home” is the moment this album forever imprinted me with its DNA. Delivered upon a backdrop of bouncing bass runs and soaring guitar riffs is an achingly beautiful song. Lyrically, I’d imagine there’s a backstory but, alas, that isn’t for me to know. From the brutally sad realization that a loved one is not around to share in our experiences to the acknowledgement that we can honor their memory through our art, it’s a master class on the empowerment of grief, perhaps told from the front seat of a tour van. In much the same way the classic Hot Water Music song “Minno” celebrates the fallen, Breathe In offers their art in payment: “I wish you were here to sing along, no you’ll never hear my words, no you’ll never hear my song.”
We’ve all lost someone whose memory we can attach to this high watermark. I’m still listening.